Fresno Bee members and management move toward agreement

Your Guild negotiators moved closer to a tentative agreement on a new, three-year contract with the Fresno Bee on Wednesday.

While some details still need to be worked out, a formal agreement could be reached as soon as next week.

During Wednesday’s talks, management presented a comprehensive, final offer to the Guild, but agreed to address several concerns that the Guild raised in its response to the final offer.

We expect to hear from management by early next week and, if a tentative agreement is reached, we’ll send a detailed bulletin reporting all the changes that have been negotiated. We’ll also announce a date for a membership meeting to answer questions about the settlement, as well as the time and place for a ratification vote.

Please stay tuned for further details, and thanks for your continued support through our negotiations.

Unit Chair Bethany Clough and Guild representative Darren Carroll represented the Guild in Wednesday’s talks.

Bob Ford, John Rich and Mark Ochinero represented management.

Sides talking again

ASLIU Bargaining Update # 15

The Guild's newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado. They began talks with management Tuesday.

The Guild’s ASLIU unit members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado.

Slight progress was made Thursday in San Francisco as Purple Communications and ASLIU negotiators met for the first time since November.

The meeting, scheduled at the union’s request, began with ASLIU presenting a revised economic proposal and the company making a proposal to amend the health-care plan. Purple wants a quick resolution to the health-care issue because the company-wide open season is scheduled in mid-April with the changes to go into effect in May.

The union team declined to entertain changes to the health-care system unless they were negotiated as part of a complete contract.

The meeting adjourned in mid-afternoon because the management team, acknowledging what it called “significant” revisions in the union’s proposals, said they would have to have further internal discussions before they could give a full response.

The company did move closer on some issues and agreed to a union proposal that will stop the practice of assigning both English and Spanish platforms to tri-lingual interpreters working on May 10, Mexican Mother’s Day, which is a very busy day for the Spanish platform.

With the health-care issue looming, the sides agreed to meet in San Francisco again on April 9.

Change in ASLIU Team

A welcome addition to the ASLIU team is Laurie Rivard, who has replaced Margie Brooks as the Oakland National Vice Chair. Because of her tenure at the table and her valuable contribution to the process throughout these negotiations, the committee asked Margie to continue as an at-large member. She has graciously agreed.

# # #

PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair     Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair

Laurie Rivard, Oakland: National Vice Chair            Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair            Margie Brooks, At-Large member

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

 

Unfair Labor Practice Hearing Scheduled in Denver

Purple communications icon 2013The National Labor Relations Board has issued a complaint charging Purple Communications with violating labor law at its Denver facility. The complaint involves multiple charges ranging from retaliation against union activists with closer scrutiny and discipline to failure to negotiate with the union over implementation of the 2% utilization rule and changes to the teaming policy.

The complaint also asserts that the company violated the law by ordering employees not to discuss details of their disciplinary investigation meetings with other employees and ordering them not to copy other employees on emails to management relating to terms and conditions of employment. Employees have the right to discuss all aspects of employment with other employees in the interest of understanding and improving their working conditions.

The company further broke the law, according to the complaint, when it ordered employees to remove union-related material from areas that are commonly used to display other personal items.

A hearing over the allegations was ordered to begin on April 15, but the company has asked that the start date be delayed until mid-May. (It can’t do early May because it’ll be busy defending itself against other unfair labor practice charges at a Board-ordered hearing in Phoenix starting on May 6.

Back to the Bargaining Table

After a four-month hiatus, negotiations between ASLIU and Purple Communications are set to resume March 27 at a meeting in the Bay area. The exact location for the meeting, scheduled to begin at 10:00 a.m., has yet to be determined.

PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

 

 

 

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Monterey Herald members fight for fair wages and affordable benefits

Guild members (l to r) Lucia Fernandez, Paul Hersh, Phillip Molnar, Claudia Melendez Salinas and James Herrera turned in the signatures to publisher Gary Omernick. Photo courtesy Guild member 2014.

Guild members (l to r) Lucia Fernandez, Paul Hersh, Phillip Molnar, Claudia Melendez Salinas and James Herrera turned in the signatures to publisher Gary Omernick. Photo courtesy Guild member 2014.

Guild members of the Monterey County Herald delivered a petition asking for a fair pay increase and a reasonable cap on what employees pay for health care to publisher Gary Omernick on Monday.

The petition was signed by 38 employees, or 82 percent of guild members, and came from all departments: packaging, newsroom, circulation and advertising.

The union has been extremely fired up lately, frustrated by company proposals that would freeze pay for 18 months and eliminate the cap on what employees pay for medical insurance.

Members’ base pay has been frozen for more than three years, during which it was forced to take two week-long unpaid furloughs — a loss of roughly 4 percent of take-home pay.  In the three years before that, base pay increased by 1 percent annually, but was offset by two week-long unpaid furloughs and an increase in the employee share of medical premiums.

With the petition, the guild wants to show Mr. Omernick and Alden Global Capital how many Herald employees are committed to achieving a fair contract at the still-profitable newspaper.

The company recently announced it would lay off five copy editors in favor of outsourcing the work to low-wage, non-union jobs in Chico, Calif.

The Herald employees believe the Monterey County community deserves an excellent newspaper edited, reported and designed by local workers — not an operation continually beset by layoffs at the discretion of a Manhattan finance officer.

With this petition, the Guild hopes Mr. Omernick will take to heart its proposal for 3-percent raises each year for the next three years, health care premium costs capped at 34 percent, and severance pay of two weeks’ pay per year of total service up to 30 weeks.

Negotiations with the company continue Friday.

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ASLIU members say mediation with management a flop

Purple Communications Bargaining Update # 14

A meeting with a federal mediator last Friday ended with no real progress being made in the negotiations between Purple Communications and ASLIU.

The meeting started with the union once again stating that the fundamental issue to interpreters was safety. ASLIU chief spokesperson, Bruce Meachum, told the management team that the union is very flexible on economic issues and is confident the parties could reach an agreement quickly if the company would bend a little on the KPI standards.

The meeting ended when company negotiators showed no signs of budging on any part of the “production standards.”

The only real substance to come out of the half-day session was a comprehensive company proposal that would include: All of the provisions of the contract already agreed upon; no significant change to log-in or KPI standards; no changes in current economic policies (health benefits; PTO/VTO; holidays; 401(k); etc.); wages to remain unchanged through June 2014; and the parties would reopen negotiations in June to determine the wages to be paid beginning in July 2014.

The company’s previous proposal was essentially identical except for the wage guarantee, which would have been only through December of this year.

So, where do we go from here?

It is not unusual for negotiations to hit a snag, especially when the bargaining is for a first contract. When that happens, the union and its members face the same choice we have: Accept what we’ve gained so far, or fight for more.

The bargaining team is proud of its accomplishments to date. We and the company have laid a good foundation for a long-term contractual relationship. But, in our view, it’s not yet enough. We are not willing to accept a contract without some relief in the so-called production standards that are injuring our members, and we’re betting that you aren’t either. We intend to fight on.

In this struggle, our best asset is our unity. We’ve had that all along and it’s made our accomplishments at the bargaining table possible. It’s always been all of us working together. Let’s continue that new tradition and show our support whenever we can. Let’s finish this mission we’ve undertaken just as we began. Together.

PMWG ASLIU Unit
National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

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Mercury News unit ratifies contract extension

San Jose Mercury News guild members today ratified an extension of our contract through October 1, 2014.

The agreement passed by a 2 to 1 margin (45 in favor, 25 opposed), with 50 percent of the 138 eligible guild members voting.

Under the terms of the extension between the Mercury News chapter of the Pacific Media Workers Guild and San Jose Mercury News LLC, employees who use all of their accrued vacation by Dec. 31, 2013, will be eligible for two paid personal days to be used between January 1 and October 1 of 2014.

As with our previous contract extension, the days would not be accrued, meaning they would not be paid out if unused in the event of separation from employment.  The two days would be forfeited if not used by October 1, 2014. All other terms of the current contract are extended under the agreement.

Thank you for your participation and support.

 

Karen de Sa, Mark Emmons, Lisa Krieger, Mike Cassidy and Nhat Meyer served on the bargaining committee, with assistance from Darren Carroll of the Guild’s international staff.

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ASL interpreters at Purple fight for a fair contract

ASL interpreters demo at Purple Communications

DENVER - Negotiations for a first contract for Video Relay Services interpreters at Purple Communications have stalled over safety issues that the company calls “economics.”

Instead of making a legitimate counter to union’s proposal for safer interpreting quotas and professional level wages, Purple negotiators told the union team last week that if they were to counter now with their own wage proposal it would be with something that interpreters would not like.

Predicting that communications companies Sorenson and Z will decrease wages in the near future, Purple negotiator Bob Kane said they will not pay wages considered substantially above the market. Purple negotiators said it’s an economic reality.

“We haven’t claimed inability to pay,” Kane responded when challenged to show the books. “It’s a lack of willingness to pay above the market.”

Translation: Purple can afford to pay decent wages, but the company leadership doesn’t want to see any decrease in profit margin.

This isn’t new. Every time the FCC determines that VRS vendors are making ridiculous amounts of money and makes changes to the program, management insulates itself from decreases by having the people who actually earn that money take the hit.Up until now, management has gotten away with that approach because employees had no real way to fight back. That all changed when four Purple centers – in California, Arizona and Colorado – voted to unionize.

So, fight back we will, and we won’t do it alone.

Video Interpreters will begin their campaign for a fair contract by asking each and every employee at the four unionized centers to show their colors and to take part in other legally protected concerted activities when asked.

At the same time, interpreters will work to enlist the support of the people who can have the most impact on the company’s attitude: Purple’s consumers. They, after all, are the ones who will be most affected by the decrease in interpreting quality caused by the one-two punch of KPI-caused fatigue and injury and the use of uncertified interpreters.

On a more visible front, Purple-sponsored events will now have a new feature: Union informational pickets and leafleters.

To be clear: Members haven’t been asked to authorize a strike, but rather put serious economic pressure on the company in other ways.

It won’t end there. And remember, however long it takes to get a fair resolution, we will last one day longer. This contract has been given a very high priority by the Pacific Media Workers Guild and by the international union. Resources will not be lacking for this campaign.

Also during last week’s bargaining:

  • Management refused to budge on our proposals to soften what we believe to be dangerously demanding performance requirements.
  • To make matters even worse, in yet another blatant attempt to devalue the VRS interpreting profession, management announced that it intends to expand its “pilot program” of hiring non-certified interpreters to all centers.

PMWG ASLIU Unit National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair

Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair

Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair

Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair

Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

Denver AVC Jo Linda Greenfield joined the team for Tuesday’s session.

Purple Communications Bargaining Update #10

The Guild's newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado. They began talks with management Tuesday.

The Guild’s newest members from Purple Communications are American Sign Language Interpreters from Arizona, California and Colorado.

SAN DIEGO _ Negotiations between the union and Purple Communications stalled this week over the issue of whether management-mandated meetings and unexpected work interruptions, like system crashes and power failures, should count against an employee’s log-in time and other performance standards.

The stage for the disagreement was set the previous week when the company announced at its non-union centers that it was changing the current policy to one that would not count some management meetings in the performance standards. In its announcement, the company said the same change would have to be negotiated in union centers.

The company’s move was an obvious response to a proposal to remove management meetings and the like from the performance standards requirements, which the union has had on the table since these negotiations began. While the union committee is happy that its pressure got the company to relax those standards for the non-union centers, the committee does not believe the change went far enough.

On Monday morning, management offered a proposal that would have mirrored the change at the non-union centers: all-staff meetings of over an hour, and on-site meetings called by upper-level management, would not count in the production standards.

The union’s counter to that proposal would remove all management-called meetings of over five minutes and all unexpected work interruptions from the production standards.

After some back and forth on the proposals, the company agreed to exclude unexpected interruptions of over 30 minutes from the production requirements, but stood firm on the meetings issue. The union responded with a proposal of 10 minutes or more on the interruptions issue, but also stood firm on the management meetings.

On Tuesday morning, the company team said they really didn’t have any further to go with the proposal. Company spokesman Bob Kane reiterated the company’s position that while the union views the KPI standards as a health-and-safety issue, management sees them as a matter of economics. He challenged the union team to come up with a solution that would not cost money.

“Sometimes health and safety costs money,” responded union spokesman Bruce Meachum. ”But we fully intend to get a contract,” Meachum said, “and that contract must have some relief in this area.”

Because many of the remaining issues to be negotiated are interrelated, the union committee decided it didn’t make sense to continue the negotiations that day and spent the rest of the time working on a comprehensive proposal, including economics, to present at the next session scheduled for September 16 and 17 in San Francisco.

Meachum acknowledged that the company has negotiated in good faith from the beginning, telling the management team that the union has appreciated the non-confrontational approach and would like to keep it that way.

__________

“Go Team!”

That’s the message a Denver VI texted to every member of the bargaining committee before negotiations began on Monday. It’s a good message for all of us. These negotiations are not just about those of us at the bargaining table. We’re just part of the team that includes every VI at these four centers. That’s the team that got us this far. That’s the team that, working together, will win a first-ever contract, not only for VIs at Purple, but for any VI anywhere. It’s a good and just cause and we are just the team to make it happen. Let’s all show our team spirit in the next few weeks. More on how to do that later. It’ll be easy and it’ll be fun.

Pacific Media Workers Guild Purple Communications Unit

National Bargaining Committee:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair

Lindsey Antle, Denver, National Vice Chair

Margie Brooks, Oakland, National Vice Chair

Michelle Caplette, Arizona, National Vice Chair

Martin Yost, San Diego, National Vice Chair

Bruce Meachum, Pacific Media Workers Guild Representative, Chief Spokesperson

Joining the committee at these meetings was Norma Villegas, San Diego AVC.

San Diego VI and LBC member Teresa Mosti attended as an observer on Monday. Also attending the Monday session to show her and her organization’s support was Rebeca Vera, a San Diego Court Interpreter and Southern Vice President of the California Federation of Interpreters, one of the largest units of the Pacific Media Workers Guild.

American sign language interpreters engage in ground-breaking negotiations

Purple Bargaining Update #9

Bargaining on August 6 and 7 led to a flurry of agreements on language for articles to be contained in a first contract between Purple and CWA’s Pacific Media Workers Guild.

Of particular interest is an Outside Activities clause that protects an employee’s right to engage in any outside activity so long as they do not “knowingly compete against Purple or have any ownership interest in a business entity that competes against Purple.” The agreement substantially continues the current policy, under which VIs are able to perform freelance or other interpreting in the community and elsewhere.

Another clause will require the company to provide “training materials and/or workshops, without cost to the employees, that will provide them the opportunity to obtain at least 1.6 CEU credits annually.”

Among other agreements were an extension of maternity/paternity rights to adoptive parents, with a guarantee of five paid days leave; a guarantee that the company will not reduce “workplace comforts” like quiet rooms, coffee/tea and water, break rooms, etc.; a clause that guarantees the four union centers will have internet access at employee workstations if other call centers get that equipment; an article defining management’s rights that are not limited or abridged by the contract; and a union security clause ensuring that each employee pay union dues or equivalent.

Agreement on another article prohibits the requirement of an employee to violate the law, including FCC regulations, or the certified interpreter’s Code of Professional Conduct. The article also requires management to develop, within 60 days of ratification of the contract, a training and proficiency program for new Spanish-platform interpreters similar to the program currently in place for employees in the English skill set. (Currently, there is no such program for Spanish.) Under the article, the company recognizes the value of RID certification and “will support full-time employees’ efforts to become certified” through the contract’s mandated reimbursements for education and professional development.

Despite numerous efforts by the union committee to reach a compromise, the company refused to agree to any form of a union proposal that all new hires must be certified. The company’s stated reason for the rejection was that they need to keep their options open for economic reasons. Union negotiator Lindsey Antle, a veteran interpreter and long-time advocate of certification standards, told the company she is “sad that Purple has chosen to go down this path.” Purple chief negotiator Bob Kane responded that management understood the importance of the issue and has not yet entered that path and wouldn’t unless it was necessary to remain competitive.

Besides the company’s adamant opposition to the proposal, the bargaining team decision to finally drop the matter was partially based on the fact that unions have limited rights when it comes to bargaining over new hires before they actually become employed. The team vowed to keep fighting, with the union’s help, for regulation at the federal level that will require all VRS interpreters to be RID certified. Expecting individual employers – who are in this business for the money – to maintain the highest standards when their profit margin is threatened is unrealistic. The only way to preserve the quality standards of the profession, as validated by certification, is to remove those standards from the field of financial competition.

There are only a few issues left to negotiate in the non-economic package. The union team is hopeful that those will be finished during our next session scheduled for San Diego on August 19 and 20.

We can never say thank you enough times to you, the supporters at Purple who make all of this possible. Thank you.

PMWG Purple Communications Unit
National Bargaining Team:

Mary Jane Moore, Arizona: National Unit Chair
Lindsey Antle, Denver: National Vice Chair
Margie Brooks, Oakland: National Vice Chair
Michelle Caplette, Arizona: National Vice Chair
Martin Yost, San Diego: National Vice Chair
Bruce Meachum, PMWG Representative: Chief Spokesperson

Hawaii Tribune-Herald unit ratifies contact

Workers at the Hawaii Tribune-Herald voted Thursday to ratify a new two-year contract that includes modest pay raises but higher health insurance premiums and subcontracting that will likely lead to job losses.

The vote was 26 to 6 with one ballot left blank. Voter turnout was 82.5 percent.

Workers will receive two percent pay raises when the contract is signed and another two percent increase after one year. The raises follow a one percent wage increase in the last two-year contract.

Starting in January, workers will pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums. Workers will cover 10 percent of Kaiser premiums — up from zero —  and 20 percent of HMSA premiums — up from 10 percent. The newspaper has made a commitment to implement an IRS Section 125 premium only plan, which will allow premiums to be paid on a pre-tax basis. The tax change should help workers absorb the higher premiums.

The contract grants the Tribune-Herald a limited subcontracting right in the mailroom and ad production and the ability to consider factors other than seniority when deciding potential layoffs in these departments. The newspaper closed its press in Hilo last year and shifted printing to West Hawaii Today, a sister paper in Kona. Subcontracting is part of Stephens Media’s restructuring.

Full-time workers who are laid off will receive one week of pay for every year of service with the newspaper, along with six months of company paid medical under COBRA. Part-time workers who are laid off will receive $2,500 severance payments and six months of company paid medical under COBRA.

The contract preserves meaningful vacation, holiday, sick leave and overtime benefits, along with the principle of seniority outside of the limited subcontracting right.

The contract was reached after a year of negotiations between the guild and the newspaper.

“Our members have once again demonstrated that they are willing to make the difficult choices necessary to keep our newspapers alive,” the guild, which represents more than 2,000 newspaper workers and court interpreters in Hawaii and California, said in a statement.

“We trust management recognizes that long-term survival is not possible without workers who are valued as partners.”